As a millennial I consider myself to be pretty tech-savvy, but with today's ever-changing technology it's getting harder and harder to distinguish what's legitimate and what's fake online.

Authorities are warning of a new scam that's recently hit several residents in Kalamazoo County and this one is so off the walls I think even I could have fallen for it! Here's what you need to know.

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Facebook Messenger Scam

WWMT first reported that hackers have now hit at least two Kalamazoo locals in an apparent scam using the Facebook Messenger app. In this highly advanced scheme, victims receive a Facebook video call from a known friend. The scammer, posing as a friend, will then urgently ask to borrow money for some sort of "emergency". The preferred method of money transfer is through banking apps like CashApp or Venmo.

The most disturbing part about this scam is the video call in which the scammer appears to be a friend-- facial features and all! One victim who goes by "Ruth" told WWMT she received a video call from her Facebook friend which lasted 18 seconds and in it,

I saw his lips moving and saw his face, and it was definitely him. I couldn't hear anything

How can you even fake something like that?!

Deepfake Technology

I'm sure most of us have seen funny videos across social media where celebrities or known figures appear to be doing something outrageous; usually, something they'd never actually do. Quite often that's a "deepfake". A combination of the phrases "deep learning" and "fake", deepfakes,

...leverage powerful techniques from machine learning and artificial intelligence to manipulate or generate visual and audio content that can more easily deceive

Think of those historical scenes in the movie Forrest Gump, where Tom Hanks is seamlessly added to great moments in history and even interacts with such notable people as John Lennon and John F. Kennedy. It almost looked real, didn't it? Deepfake is a bit like that.

What to Avoid

Thankfully although "Ruth" in Kalamazoo County did in fact send money to her friend in need, she sent it to the real person's CashApp account and not the one the scammer requested. Her real-life Facebook friend, whom she's known for years, was very confused by the sudden funds and that's when the two realized something fishy was going on!

Authorities are offering tips on how to avoid scams like these which include:

  • Never trusting any requests for money that you receive on social media
  • Reporting any suspicious activity to authorities
  • Not to take anything at face value

As my grandma always said, "Keep your wits about you!"

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